Monday, July 31, 2006

Licensed Deacons an Issue in the Synod

Many districts are now using licensed laymen to do Word and Sacrament ministry in congregations. A variety of reasons are often given.

1. finances -- congregation can't afford pastor due to increasing health care costs and decreasing attendance.

2. maximize ministry -- idea is that more people have preaching, more can be accomplished

But there are some problems.

First, there is debate about whether such is an office as it is being practiced is Biblical or not.

Second, there is concern about the level of competency and training. Pastors fall under supervision of district presidents and must have ordination and a Masters Degree in one of our seminaries. Students are ordained only after close scrutiny. The amount of and quality of training and the standards for admission to this new office of licensed layman are unclear.

Third, there is a concern that as this office grows and becomes a substitute for the ordained ministry, that the quality of teaching and confession will decline within the Synod.

Fourth, there is concern that said office will engender conflict between pastoral leadership and lay leadership. For example is a pastor is proclaiming God's Word faithfully, but a congregation holds opinions contrary to that Word, they could be tempted to run the pastor out and elevate a licensed layman into his place.

The Southern Illinois District has called for the 2007 convention to place some limitations on this office. Other Districts have called for having a standard understanding across Synod at to the responsiblities and authority associated with the office as well as its limitations, providing appropriate supervision, and finally making sure that appropriate training is provided and standardized.

However, there are those who feel that said office, if it practices Word and Sacrament ministry, is operating with an unbiblical mandate.

The SID resolution includes the following: (Resolution 2-02)

"RESOLVED, that the Southern Illinois District in Convention (2006) memorialize the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LC-MS) 2007 Synodical Convention to rescind the
1989 convention Res. 3-05B (establishment of licensed lay deacons to
provide pastoral services), AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Southern Illinois District in Convention (2006) memorialize the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LC-MS) 2007 Synodical Convention to direct that all programs mentioned in the 2004 convention Res. 5-09 (to affirm district programs that equip laity for ministry) maintain the clear distinction between the service of laity and the Word and Sacrament ministry given to the pastoral office AND BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that the Southern Illinois District in Convention (2006) memorialize the Lutheran
Church-Missouri Synod (LC-MS) 2007 Synodical Convention to direct Synod’s
congregations to a number of programs for training men for the office of Pastor,
including not only the M. Div seminary program, but also alternate routes and
especially DELTO (Distance Education Leading to Ordination), DIT (Deaf
Institute of Theology), EIIT (Ethnic Immigrant Institute of Theology), and HIT
(Hispanic Institute of Theology)."

You can read the full resolution here including the reasoning:

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